15 Surprising Things You Can Do In An Air Fryer

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From 1970s food processors to 1990s juicers, home cooks love trendy kitchen appliances. And just when you think every culinary invention imaginable has had its day, a new one steals the show. In 2019, The New York Times called the air fryer the “kitchen appliance of the moment”.

Air fryers are simple – they are small countertop convection ovens that simulate frying without immersing the food in oil. Sarah Patrick owns AirFrying.net with her husband, David, and their site features air frying recipes, reviews, and tips.

Patrick tells me that she didn’t even own a deep fryer before she bought the website, but she can’t imagine a kitchen without a deep fryer anymore. She owns eight different fryers and has given some away to her family and friends. She now has two – a toaster style, a basket style.

“I like air frying for the speed and convenience,” says Patrick. “It’s faster than the oven and more convenient than the stovetop, making multitasking in the kitchen easier.”

For Patrick, tater tots are the epitome of the air fryer.

“I make them in every air fryer we review,” she says. “An air fryer helps make a quick meal even faster.”

Patrick says the items she most often makes in the air fryer are frozen ready meals – tater tots, fries, chicken nuggets, pizzas and the like.

She offers some general tips for using the air fryer:

  • The cooking time for an item in an air fryer depends on the size of your air fryer and the capacity to food ratio. For example, the cooking time for a hamburger patty in a small 2-quart air fryer will be different than for a hamburger in a large 8-quart fryer. Most recipes recommend checking or turning your food halfway through cooking. This gives you the ability to check for doneness and adjust the time or temperature as needed by your device.
  • Do not use cooking spray (like Pam) in your air fryer. This can degrade the non-stick properties of your device.
  • Use appropriate oils with a high smoke point. The Patricks don’t use oil often, but when they do, they prefer an oil spray with avocado oil.

Patrick introduced me to some of his favorite and unusual recipes to make in an air fryer, and I tried a few for myself.

1. Hard-boiled eggs

Partially peeled boiled eggs on a counter.
Ildi Papp / Shutterstock.com

It’s not hard to boil eggs on the stovetop, but air frying them means they peel easier, says Patrick. “Hard-boiled eggs are definitely something you might not think of doing in your air fryer, but it works great.” His recipe notes that cooks should spray eggs with an oil suitable for air fryers, such as avocado, to ensure they don’t stick together.

I tried cooking eggs in the air fryer and was thrilled that there was no more egg smell in the air. One note: one of my eggs cracked and the air fryer apparently swirled the leaky yolk, dotting the shells. I was surprised to see brown speckled shells when I opened the fryer, but the dots disappeared right away. And they peeled well.

2. Grilled cheese sandwiches

girl eating grilled cheese sandwich
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Air Fried Grilled Cheese Sandwiches are one of Patrick’s favorite meals, she says.

“My personal advice – butter the outside of the bread, but use mayonnaise, or mustard if that’s how you roll it, on the inside of each slice,” she says. “Not only does it taste good, it helps the top slice of bread stick to the sandwich and not swirl around inside the air fryer.”

I made grilled cheese sandwiches in my air fryer and found them to be crispy and delicious! They came out even crispier than my usual method of making them in a frying pan.

3. Grill

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Worried that you won’t have room in your kitchen for an air fryer? Well you might not need your toaster anymore — Patrick makes toast in his air fryer.

“We haven’t had a toaster since we got our first air fryer,” she says. “Note that your bread may fly inside the basket, but this helps toast it on both sides. You can also toast bagels, Pop-Tarts and more.

4. Baked Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes
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I like cooked sweet potatoes. Although they are simple to make in a regular oven, Patrick’s recipe saved me about 10 minutes and is a tasty and easy alternative.

5. Cupcakes

Ruth Black / Shutterstock.com

Cupcakes in an air fryer? Yes!

“People tend to forget that an air fryer is a countertop oven,” says Patrick. “Anything you can cook, you can air fry. If you don’t have a cupcake or muffin pan for your air fryer, use silicone molds.

I didn’t have silicone molds, so I used a regular cupcake pan in my toaster oven style air fryer. They came out unevenly browned but tasted delicious. My husband said he actually preferred the crispy tops the air fryer gave to the softer topped cupcakes they had when baked in a regular oven.

6. Spaghetti squash

spaghetti squash
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spaghetti squash makes a delicious noodle substitute for those on a low carb diet or needing to eliminate gluten. So, of course, you can cook it in the air fryer. Patrick says the resulting squash has the perfect al dente texture.

“Faster than baking, air fryers are a great way to prepare spaghetti squash,” she says.

7. Fried Pickles

Fried pickles
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Breaded and fried pickles are a popular snack, but why wait for the festival to make them in the air fryer?

This recipe use Cajun seasoning, but use whatever seasoning you prefer,” says Patrick.

As a fair food fan, I had to try them. I didn’t have any panko or almond flour, but regular breadcrumbs worked fine. I didn’t bother to flip them, but they still browned pretty evenly.

8. Donuts

Woman eating glazed donuts
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

Donuts? In an air fryer? “It’s a shortcut recipe using refrigerated cookie dough,” says Patrick.

My daughter and her friend were delighted. Personally, I prefer my From Scratch Donut Recipe which yields sweeter, less breaded donuts, but it’s a fun and quick option.

9. Fried Bolognese

Fried bologna sandwich and fries
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock.com

“If you grew up eating fried bologna sandwiches, try air fry bolognasuggests Patrick.

It’s not one of my favorites, but if it’s one of yours, take Patrick’s suggestion to make a few cuts in the bologna slice before frying it. This will help it fry more evenly.

10. Corn on the cob

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“Air frying corncob is as easy as grilling it,” explains Patrick.

And since my grill’s propane tank was empty, I gave it a try. My corn matched the size of my air fryer and was delicious. I sprinkled mine with Trader Joe’s Everything But the Bagel seasoning for some spice.

11. Baked Potatoes

Loaded Baked Potato
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock.com

baked potatoes aren’t difficult to make in a regular oven, but I usually give them 45 minutes to an hour in this appliance. In the air fryer they were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside after only 40 minutes, so the air fryer saves me time on this food.

12. Hash browns

hash browns
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My teenage daughter discovered fast food hash browns this year, but we don’t always fancy going through a drive-thru for our snack. Frozen hash browns can be popped in the air fryer and air fried for a nice even crunch.

13. Whole Chicken

Roast chicken
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“We cooks a 4.5 pound dry-rubbed chicken in a 4.6 quart air fryer for an hour,” Patrick tells me. “My husband said it was the juiciest chicken he’s ever had.”

14. S’mores

Smores S'mores
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Air fryer s’mores? “What’s not to like?” Patrick says of this favorite campsite.

Note that if you like to crisp your marshmallow in the campfire, this recipe won’t give you that experience. Air fried marshmallows toast evenly. But I found mine still had that irresistible crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside, and the chocolate melted beautifully.

15. French Toast

French toast and strawberries
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock.com

I didn’t think that French toast I made in the air fryer would crisp just as well as one made on the stovetop, but I was wrong. It was a quick and convenient way to prepare breakfast.

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